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Dead medium: PALplus television letterbox format
From: (Charlie Crouch)

Daily Telegraph, London, Dec 10, 1996 "TechnoTurkey" column by Barry Fox


I have just relocated from California (where I previously worked for Apple Computer) to London. Imagine my surprise when I was reading the paper and found a column dealing with, among other things, dead media! As The Daily Telegraph does have a web site, this column may well be available to your other list members. Thanks for the continuing interest. I enjoy reading the notes.

Charlie Crouch

The Daily Telegraph in London runs a weekly section called "" and the Tuesday, December 10 issue (page 4) has a column titled "TechnoTurkey - Barry Fox looks at duff technologies". The entry for December 10 describes a letterboxing scheme that will soon be made obsolete.

Widescreen Flops

When a TV station transmits a widescreen movie, it must choose between cropping the sides or putting 'letterbox' black borders at the top and bottom. A widescreen TV set can then expand the letterbox image to fill its 16:9 screen. The trouble is, the picture quality is reduced.

The MAC system was designed to solve this problem, with a signal that suited both ordinary and widescreen TVs. But it flopped. Digital TV will play the same tricks but was, until recently, seen as a next-century product. So in 1988, European electronics companies started five years' work on PALplus, a scheme in which the black borders of the letterbox contain analogue "helper" signals. These let a PALplus TV set fill a wide screen without loss of quality.

But so many viewers with ordinary sets complained about letterboxed PALplus movies that Channel 4 (((a commercial channel in the UK))) scrapped plans for PALplus horseracing. Some of C4's movies are still transmitted in PALplus. But when digital TV is launched next year, PALplus will drop into the dustbin of history.

Charlie Crouch (